Power brinjals knock on ag minister's door (17/6/2006)

Greenpeace did a series of actions in New Delhi to highlight the threat of GM brinjal (aubergine/eggplant).

Here are the press releases for the actions on the 13th (item 2) and 16th of June.

Note that India's agricultural minister, Sharad Pawar,m seems to be washing his hands of the issue, saying he will not influence the decision on GE brinjal.

1.Power Brinjals knock on Minister Sharad Pawar's door
2.GM Brinjal to escape scrutiny and get on our plates

1.Power Brinjals knock on Minister Sharad Pawar's door Ask Minister to prevent GM Brinjal approval
check for the pictures and web story at:

New Delhi, June 16th 2006 (12 noon update) After three days of sustained pressure, union agriculture and food minister Mr. Sharad Pawar met Greenpeace activists at his residence this morning. Mr Pawar assured he would take into account the concerns raised by Greenpeace in the memorandum (1) but will "not influence the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)" in the upcoming decision on whether to allow large scale field trials of GM brinjal next month.

Greenpeace also presented to the minister a report 'Unpredictable, Irreversible and Unnatural' (2) on genetic engineering (GE) accidents and stressed the need for his urgent intervention in the matter, "The minister must assure the nation that he represents the interests of millions of consumers and small farmers at the GEAC and will take a stand against the approval of GM brinjal next month" said Rajesh Krishnan, Greenpeace, GE Free India campaigner. A copy of the report was earlier presented to Health Minister Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss yesterday at his office.

The report while highlighting GE accidents establishes that the unpredictable, irreversible and unnatural characters of GMOs make them very risky. It suggests that the Precautionary Principle be invoked very strictly in the case of GMOs. In November 2005, scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, (CSIRO) in Australia abandoned years of research and field trials on GM peas when it showed inflammation of lungs and susceptibility to more allergens on mice.

Two 'brinjals' today sought an audience with Mr. Pawar, to alert him of the potential dangers of allowing large-scale field trials of GM brinjal starting next month. Each 'brinjal' wore an urgent message "Minister Pawar, Don't genetically modify brinjals!"

The 'brinjals' drew attention to the two 'sheep' and 'cows' that staged a die-in at Mr. Pawar's door to remind the Minister that urgent issues of public health and safety were pending to be resolved before any approval for GM brinjal could be brought up. Activists, dressed as 'cow' and 'sheep', had earlier presented a memorandum at the Minister's office in Krishi Bhawan.

"No tests have been done anywhere in the world to conclusively prove the safety of GM brinjal for human consumption. If approved, Indians will be the first people in the world forced to eat a GM vegetable, the safety of which cannot be guaranteed." said Rajesh Krishnan.

The GEAC has provided only 15 days for the citizens to debate and question the so-called biosafety studies, which is essentially Mahyco-Monsanto’s data. "Greenpeace demands that there must be no approval for GM brinjal until the government assess the health impacts of GM crops by conducting an exhaustive long term health impact study on various crops for both food and feed", said Rajesh Krishnan.

For more information, www.greenpeaceindia.org Rajesh Krishnan, Campaigner GE Free India: +919845650032

Jai Krishna, Campaigner, GE Free India: +919845591992

Vivek Sharma, Greenpeace Communications: +91934378842 / 011-26167624 [email protected]

(1) Please see attached/enclosed memorandum or visit www.greenpeaceindia.org

(2) Please see report: Unpredictable, Irreversible and Unnatural at: www.greenpeaceindia.org


2.Safety of our food under threat: GM Brinjal to escape scrutiny and enter our plates
13th June 2006.
click here for the story with pictures:

New Delhi, 13 June 2006 Three 'cows' and three 'sheep', on behalf of 1600 dead cattle, sought an audience with the Minister of Agriculture Mr. Sharad Pawar this morning to present a memorandum (1) drawing his attention to the mysterious deaths of cattle in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. Activists dressed as cows and sheep held up a banner asking, "Did GM Crops Kill Us? Don't Legalise GM food!" to demand an investigation into the reasons for the inexplicable death of cattle after grazing in Bt cotton fields. Alert signboards depicting upturned cows and sheep (to symbolize their death) with the question, "Can GM crops kill?" were also laid out outside the Ministry of Agriculture.

A fact finding report by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad indicates that the widespread death of sheep in April 2006 was closely linked to prolonged consumption of Bt cotton stalks and leaves that were left in fields after cotton had been harvested this season. (2)

"The impact of GM technology on human health and biodiversity remain unpredictable, untested and irreversible. Despite this, the government is on the verge of approving large scale field trials of GM brinjal (eggplant) – the first GM food crop in India," said Rajesh Krishnan, Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner. "Indians will be the first people in the world to eat GM brinjal. It's vital that the Agriculture Ministry first address the question raised by the cows and sheep today – Can GM Foods kill?"

Greenpeace has expressed shock at the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee's (GEAC) decision to rely on reports from the state government instead of bringing in experts on bio safety. The Agriculture Ministry's agreement to this decision (the Ministry is represented on the GEAC) indicates that the Ministry seems keen to promote GM crops, protecting corporate interests rather than the farmers of the country.

"The consistent regulatory failure in the case of Bt cotton has established that large-scale field trials lead to uncontrolled release of unauthorised genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment. Now that the government is eager to approve large-scale field trials of GM brinjal there is a real danger of widespread contamination of food. Moreover the government has provided only 15 days for citizens to respond to the proposal, and highlight the risks posed by GM food," said Rajesh Krishnan.

Greenpeace is demanding that the Agriculture Minister order an investigation on sheep mortality and withdraw all permissions for commercial release of existing GE crops in the interim.

"There must be no further approvals for GM crops until the government assesses the health impacts of GM crops by conducting an exhaustive study of long-term health impacts of various crops, both food and feed," said Rajesh Krishnan, on behalf of Greenpeace India.

Following the two-hour protest Mr. P.M.S. Hakeem (IAS) Secretary, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries informed Greenpeace that he was already aware of the issue and had "informally" requested Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) to investigate into the deaths.

Greenpeace campaigner Rajesh Krishnan expressed outrage that the ministry has not been proactive and decisive inspite of being aware about the mysterious cattle deaths. "It is a cause for serious concern that the ministry continues to be casual, given the imminent approval of GM brinjal. The safety of our food is in question," he said.

The minister's office assured the activists that Mr. Pawar would meet them the next day to accept the memorandum.

For more information, www.greenpeaceindia.org Rajesh Krishnan, Campaigner GE Free India: +919845650032

Jai Krishna, Campaigner, GE Free India: +919845591992

Vivek Sharma, Greenpeace Communications: +91934378842 / 011-26167624 [email protected]

Notes to editor:

(1) Please visit www.greenpeaceindia.org

(2) Mortality in sheep flocks after grazing on Bt cotton fields, Warangal district, Andhra Pradesh. A report of the preliminary assessment, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, April 2006.

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